Summer is winding down, and so are your clients’ visits to their vacation homes.
Summer homes, even those in mild climates, need to be winterized before the cold weather hits. “Frozen pipes can burst and flood the house, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage,” says Doug Myers, owner of HomePro Inspections, a New York-based home inspection company that serves the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. “Even a minor leak will cost thousands when it goes undetected for weeks.”
So, before your clients pack up their porch loungers, offer them these tips for winterizing a summer home.
Prepare the Pipes
To avoid frozen pipes that burst, turn off the water at the main supply point, then drain every pipe. “Ideally, a summer home will have a release valve wherever you turn the water on and off that drains all of the pipes,” says Rosie Romero, a remodeler who hosts “Rosie on the House,” a home improvement radio show in Arizona.
If a home is serviced by a well and pump, it’s important to turn off the pump electrically to prevent damage, Myers adds.
One place you do want to keep moisture? The toilet’s p-trap. “If the heater is on, it may draw moisture out of the p-trap,” Romero says. “Then, whatever is in the septic tank, like cockroaches and smells, could make its way into the house.”
Heat Things Up
Your clients may be inclined to turn off their summer home’s heat to save money. But this can cost them in the long run if their pipes freeze and burst. To prevent a potential disaster, heat should be kept on at a low setting, somewhere between 50 and 55 degrees, Myers says.
For homes in warmer climates, Romero suggests clients set their thermostats to 60 degrees, which will remove moisture and prevent condensation in air units.
Clients should also ensure the heat doesn’t go out while they’re away for the season. Myers recommends freeze alarms, which alert homeowners whenever the indoor temperature drops below a certain level. “You can monitor the heat through an alarm company, stand-alone devices or even apps,” he adds.
Step Up Security
Vacant homes can be vulnerable to theft. Security alarms that notify police when triggered are a good preventative option, but they can also be costly. Romero notes that less expensive alarm systems, like SimpliSafe, can be self-installed and monitored through cell phones.
He also suggests investing in a metal screen door. “Statistics show thieves only spend 30 seconds trying to break in,” Romero says. “If they are casing the area and see you have two doors, not just one, they’ll choose another target.”
Since most break-ins happen through the front door, Romero suggests reinforcing the front door jambs. “Buy fake surveillance cameras, too,” he says. “The wires don’t have to [lead] anywhere, but they will make people think twice.”
Mind the Weather
Your clients should also consider preparing their summer homes for severe weather, including high winds, record-breaking low temperatures and heavy rain or snow.
Bob Vail—a builder and remodeler in Cumberland Center, Maine, and owner of Vail General Contracting—puts shutters on windows to protect them from surf, rain and wind. Clients should also be mindful of the types of windows they install, he says, adding that while easy-tilt windows are easy to open, they’re also easily broken.
It’s essential for a property owner or contractor to personally inspect the home a few times each winter, Romero says. “If condensation is building up in windows or inside pipes, it can lead to rusting,” he says. “Flush the toilet and bring water to dump into the pipes to make sure they haven’t frozen and cracked.”
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